Updated at 5 p.m., on Sept. 26, 2013.
The House of Representatives is pushing the Malaysian government to pardon Wilfrida Soik, an Indonesian migrant worker who is facing a possible death sentence in Malaysia for allegedly killing her employer.
“To get a pardon we need to work with the Malaysian government,” said Poempida Hidayatulloh, a member of House Commission IX, which oversees manpower affairs.
The Golkar Party legislator said 17-year-old Wilfrida, who has been working since she was 12, had clearly been a victim of human trafficking and the Malaysian government should consider humanitarian factors such as its commitment to fight human trafficking.
Poempida emphasized that not granting Wilfrida clemency would go against the government’s efforts to deport illegal workers and would put the Malaysian government’s commitment in fighting against human trafficking into question.
“If Wilfrida’s case continues with allegations of murder, then her employer and the agent who had recruited Wilfrida would also have to be held accountable for human trafficking,” he said.
Additionally, the legislator said the Indonesian government would have to take strict diplomacy action should the Malaysian government insist on ignoring the many questions surrounding the case.
Wilfrida was arrested in Johor, Malaysia, on Dec. 18, 2010.
She had been taken to Malaysia from Belu, East Nusa Tenggara, by an agency at a time when Indonesia had issued a suspension on the placement of housemaids in the country.
While legislators push for the government to take a decisive stance on the matter, presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto, from the Great Indonesia Movement party (Gerindra) seems to be one step ahead.
The former army general will be assisting Wilfrida throughout her upcoming hearing, an official from the party confirmed in a press release on Monday.
“Prabowo will do his best to free Wilfrida from the death sentence. Aside from providing a good lawyer, he will also assist her at the hearing on September 30,” Gerindra deputy secretary general Sudaryono said on Monday.
Prabowo left for Malaysia on Friday after receiving news Wilfrida had not received proper legal aid for the three years she had been detained.
Sudaryono said the Malaysian government had been cooperative in efforts to save Wilfrida, allowing Prabowo to meet her on Saturday with the assistance of Malaysian legal expert Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
Sudaryono said Wilfrida had been surprised by Prabowo’s visit, especially considering she had never received visits from any Indonesian officials or embassy staff.
“According to Prabowo, Wilfrida’s hands were very cold when they shook hands. The girl did not expect and never dreamed of being visited by a political figure. She was also very happy, because she sees hope for her future. Prabowo also motivated Wilfrida not to give up,” he said.
Sudaryono said Prabowo’s meeting with Wilfrida had lasted for two hours, with the accused explaining her side of the story to the Gerindra leader.
Prabowo was hopeful Wilfrida will be free from her charges, he added.
Sudaryono also noted Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee had said there was still time to save the underage girl.
Meanwhile, Poempida on Tuesday expressed appreciation towards Prabowo’s gesture.
“This is the kind of action that shows a leader’s care and concern to the oppressed, wherever they are,” he said on Tuesday, as quoted by Liputan6.com.
He added that Prabowo’s action was a remarkable gesture that should serve as a slap in the face to the Indonesian government who had apparently done so little since Wilfrida had been locked up.
Poempida went on to say that if more Indonesian leaders took a proactive role in addressing issues surrounding migrant workers, problems could be solved quicker.
“In this case, special diplomacy is needed in finding the needed solution. Political pressure can also be applied on an international level, depending on the situation and our relationship with that country,” Poempida said.
Prabowo’s network in Malaysia may be of great help in finalizing Wilfrida’s case, he said. “I hope to receive good news in the development of Wilfrida’s case.”
Meanwhile, Wilfrida is not the only Indonesian migrant worker on death row in a foreign country.
In July, the Indonesian Migrant Worker Placement and Protection Agency (BNP2TKI) looked into the case of Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad an Indonesian maid who had been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for killing her employer.
The Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh had been fighting for Satina’s pardon since 2007 and had approached the victim’s family to negotiate a monetary compensation.
The family reportedly requested $2.67 million in 2011, but later on agreed on $1.87 million.
According to the NGO Migrant Care, 420 Indonesians were on death row worldwide, including 45 in Saudi Arabia, while data from the Foreign Affairs Ministry showed 185 Indonesian workers had been sentenced to death in Malaysia.
Earlier in 2011, an Indonesian maid named Ruyati was beheaded for killing her employer with a meat cleaver, prompting the Foreign Affairs Ministry to file a complaint to the Saudi government saying the Indonesian government had not been notified about the execution.
The Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration subsequently issued a two-year moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia in 2011.
Last week, Migrant Care, Change.org and several lawmakers issued a petition that called on the Malaysian court to revoke Wilfrida’s death sentence — the petition had collected 9,258 signatures as of Wednesday evening.
Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayaha said the support for Wilfrida’s freedom would be e-mailed directly to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian Supreme Court.
Anis said she had high hopes that Indonesia and Malaysia would be able to achieve solidarity on justice and humanitarian issues.
Rieke Diah Pitaloka, a member of House Commission IX, said Wilfrida’s case should be able to open the door for investigations into Indonesia’s human trafficking cases.
“This case can be our pathway to solving human trafficking. Wilfrida had been sent to Malaysia when Indonesia had banned such a move,” the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker said during the launch of the petition.
Rieke further called on the president to lobby the Malaysian government.
“I call for a more intensive political lobbying between the Indonesian government and the Malaysian government. In the last year of SBY’s time in office, he should be able to do this,” she said.
Correction. Due to an editing error, this article originally said that Wilfrida Soik had been sentenced to death. Wilfrida Soik has not been sentenced to death — her hearing falls on Sept. 30.